Dance

Dimensions Dance Theatre Staging Two Premieres Plus Cuban’s Legacy Ballet For First Time

Written By Guillermo Perez
July 8, 2024 at 5:11 PM

Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami is presenting its first company staging of  Cuban choreographer Jorge García’s “Majísimo,” along with two world premieres in its program “Kaleidoscope” at the Dennis C. Moss Center on Saturday, July 13. Above, the ensemble in “Majísimo.” (Photo courtesy of Dimensions Dance Theatre) 

With a bow to our intense summer, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami is offering a show full of colorful, shifting formations pierced by bright light. At the Moss Center on Saturday, July 13, “Kaleidoscope” presents two world premieres—each vivid in its particular palette—and a much-anticipated first company staging of “Majísimo,” a Spanish-hued ballet that’s spread its warmth and sparkle around the world through a long series of seasons.

“Commissioning and developing new work is a significant part of our mission, as we contribute to the art form’s evolution to keep it relevant for today’s audiences,” says company co-director Jennifer Kronenberg. “But we also had in mind a kaleidoscopic vision of tradition and classicism, with ‘Majísimo’ juxtaposed to the shapes and musicality of the present.”

Jessica Arechavaleta and Ariel Morilla strike a Spanish pose in Jorge García’s “Majísimo.” (Photo courtesy of Dimensions Dance Theatre)

On the legacy front, 1965 saw the emergence of Cuban choreographer Jorge García (he died in Portugal in 2021), a dancer at Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC) when he devised, through classical ballet’s crisp idiom, a tribute to Spanish dance—in stance and movement references as flirtatious as the unfurling of a fan—and to the proud spirit of the land of flamenco and escuela bolera, a hybrid of popular and academic dance.  García’s “Majísimo” has as its title the superlative for majo, a distinctively Iberian version of a great-looker, a charmer, a surefire seducer. In other words, get ready to surrender.

“Since we started our company, Jen and I have discussed doing this ballet,” says Carlos Guerra, DDTM’s co-artistic director and Kronenberg’s husband. “Our dancers have such a strong classical base we wanted to give them this opportunity—and especially now that we have some really powerful guys.”

As someone who adored dancing “Majísimo” at Cuba’s Ballet de Camagüey in the late 90s, Guerra respects its importance as a time-proven audience favorite, a high point for his native country in the art form. Foremost, he was determined to stage it under the right conditions.

“About a year and a half ago, we had the chance to purchase the costumes from a school that was closing—and they are beautiful,” explains Guerra. “Also, Orlando Salgado, who knows this work intimately and has long been a friend of mine, was available to coach it. So no better moment than now to go ahead with the ballet.”

Salgado, indeed, is a zealous keeper of this treasure. He began dancing “Majísimo” at BNC in the late 1960s and became the lead until his last performance in Spain in 1997.

“I always enjoyed dancing ‘Majísimo,’ feeling a great vibe from the audience,” he says. “The choreographer put in ingredients that keep the ballet from getting old, detailing a refined relationship among the dancers through four movements and a brilliant coda, its crescendo arousing enthusiasm to the last step.”

Orlando Salgado, front, began dancing “Majísimo” in the late 1960s and became the lead until his last performance in Spain in 1997. Here he rehearses Pedro Aldana for Dimension Dance Theatre’s “Majísimo.” (Photo courtesy of Dimensions Dance Theatre)

The sumptuous style displayed in the work, observes Salgado, comes directly from the music, selections from Jules Massenet’s “Le Cid.” No wonder some quip that Spanish orchestral music was invented by the French—Debussy, Ravel, and Bizet among composers who enthusiastically appropriated inflections from the Spaniards. Massenet, with exquisite Gallic taste, filtered the colors of Spain for his tones and rhythms, rendering them especially vibrant—a boon for García’s ballet in elegance and vigor.

Fast forward six decades to works finished just days ago—the currents of dance roll along lapping on different stylistic shores while channeled in bedrock principles—and find Dimensions making a splash in the freshest of choreographic waters. Those feed off an idyllic spring in “Arcadia,” a new work by company artist-in-residence Yanis Eric Pikieris, once more immersed in the sounds of contemporary English composer Oliver Davis, whose “Voyager” the choreographer used for a premiere last year.

“His music lends itself to dance well. There’s so much variety and texture,” Pikeiris judges, in fellowship with notable dance makers such as Edwaard Liang who’ve mined the Davis catalog. The composer himself has identified the rhythmic pulse and compactness of his scores as choreographic magnets.

Pikieris’ present four-movement piece culminates in the titular selection, drawn from a 2019 Davis album of the same name. The piano phrases in this have a cloudless quality as if a blessed destination has been reached. To get there, five other tracks from “Liberty,” a 2018 Davis recording, provide momentum: a cello concerto opens with throaty enthusiasm and then the violin goes forth with exhortations, especially when the lead couples— their leotards and tights sporting festive colors—seem to explore a landscape of enchantment.

Amelia Rouff stays attentive to the angle of a balance in Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye’s “Sweet and Bitter.” (Photo courtesy of Dimensions Dance Theatre)

“The music definitely evokes feelings of summer, as does the piece,” says Pikieris,  reflecting that his Arcadia—a pastoral haven for ancient Greeks—“could be lush and sunny and tropical.” In the imagination of this creator, who jovially admits record-breaking high temperatures are far from his ideal, sweat evaporates into a hovering fine feeling, no air conditioning required.

Pikieris credits the cast for enlivening his choreographic ideas.  “In a way it’s been the same for all my pieces,” he says, “but more for this one and ‘Voyager,’ where I’ve wanted to get the dancers moving big.” That, he notes, bubbles up from their generous delivery.

Emily Bromberg, as a prime example, has shown she can take what Pikieris gives her—from brisk and nervy moves to the dreamy—and hand it back alluringly amplified.  She admits the current piece “does feel more grand.”

In her estimation, “Arcadia” moves forth on circulating interaction, which heightens the sense of shared energy among the dancers.  To an extent, Bromberg identifies the base for the work’s expansive look in what Pikieris brings to his own performances.    “There’s a special way he uses his upper body—an opening of the torso—that makes his moves seem larger.”  His compact frame can thus deliver huge dancing, a joy and boldness he passes on to interpreters of his creations.

According to Bromberg, “The Davis score always makes it look like something major is happening. Emotion is deep, complicated, but never sad.” Zipping by with the ensemble or slinkily linked with Maikel Hernandez—even just watching fellow dancers—she’s swept along. “You may get out of breath,” she says “but still feel great connecting.”

Emily Bromberg and Maikel Hernandez soar to a blissful place in Yanis Eric Pikieris’ “Arcadia.” (Photo by Simon Soong)

For the ballerina, a passionate musicality also marks the other premiere on the bill. Oklahoma City Ballet’s artistic director Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye’s “Sweet and Bitter” uses a score by the late Ezio Bosso, an Italian composer who’s another favorite of choreographers—among them again, Liang, whose “Murmuration,” to a Bosso violin concerto, Bromberg danced at Slovak National Theatre.

But her ties here go further, for she’s known Joliecoeur-Nye since their early days as dancers at Festival Ballet Providence (now Ballet Rhode Island). In fact, she introduced the choreographer to Dimensions, which mounted a pas de deux by him that Bromberg learned to perform through video.

“This is the first time I’ve worked with Ryan as he choreographs in person,” says the ballerina, impressed by how fast he’s tailored this piece on company personalities. She finds it remarkable he approached this project without preconceived notions—even the music was undetermined before the first studio encounter—a situation which could prove daunting for dancers.

Yet Bromberg, who reaches a high point here in a quick, bounding solo, confesses, “I wasn’t nervous. Once Ryan gets on a roll, he just goes and goes. The steps flow organically, and he changes very little. There’s always a strong emotion to hang on to.” And gliding on the music, she’s discovered it’s really colors from the dancers’ spirit that brighten the view.

WHAT: Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami “Kaleidoscope”

WHEN: 8 p.m., Saturday, July 13 

WHERE: Dennis C. Moss Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211 Street, Cutler Bay

COST: $25, $35, $45

INFORMATION: (786) 573-5300 or dimensionsdancemiami.com.

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